TCC Podcast #192: Building a Better Not Bigger Business with Ashley Gartland - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #192: Building a Better Not Bigger Business with Ashley Gartland

Business coach and copywriter Ashley Gartland is our guest for the 192nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. No surprise, when it comes to helping other writers build a solid business, she knows her stuff. So we asked Ashley about a whole range of things, including:

•  how she ended up as a writer and business coach
•  what she does in her business today and the problems she helps solve
•  what a “better not bigger” business looks like and how to create one
•  a few of the business models that help copywriters grow a better business
•  what Ashley does to help free up more time for clients
•  her “marketing audit” and what it involves for her clients
•  what copywriters starting out can do to build a “better not bigger” biz
•  what happens when people hit their goals and what comes next
•  growing a team and what you should think about as you scale and grow
•  how to grow a business WITHOUT a team
•  how Ashley deals with overwhelm and getting things done
•  the tools that Ashley uses to get things done
•  what her team looks like and how she spends her time today
•  the packages she offers to her clients
•  what you should do if you want to do more copy coaching
•  the mistakes Ashley sees copywriters making and holding them back
•  what she’s done to take her business to the next level
•  the pitch that got Ashley on our podcast and why it worked
•  the difference confidence makes in so many of her client’s businesses

We also asked about the future of copywriting and what to do if you want a “bigger and better” business. This is a good one. To hear it all, the play button below. Or scroll down for a transcript. Better yet, subscribe and never miss an episode.


The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Ashley’s website
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground


Full Transcript:

Rob:   This episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Underground, the place to connect with hundreds of smart copywriters who share your ideas and strategies to help you master marketing, mindset and copywriting in your business. Learn more at

Kira:   What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work. That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.

Rob:   You’re invited to join the club for episode 192 as we chat with business coach Ashley Gartland about creating a business that is better not bigger, what business challenges copywriters struggle with the most, her advice on managing time projects and overwhelm and the pitch she sent us that made us want to have her on the show.

Kira:   Welcome Ashley.

Rob:   Hi Ashley.

Ashley:   Hi guys. Thanks so much for having me.

Kira:   Yeah. Great to have you and I am excited to talk about the pitch that you sent us because it did grab my attention at least, and you kind of played the long game too as far as building a relationship on Instagram first and I just felt like it was very an elegant approach to pitching podcast. So we’ll talk about that, but first let’s start with your story. How did you end up as a writer turned business coach?

Ashley:   Yeah. So really I have to say that though the way I landed here and the way I got into business by myself in the first place, entrepreneurship, is because I had this really strong desire to have a career that served my life. And when I graduated from journalism school I didn’t see a lot of options out there that matched what I envisioned for my life, which was a lot of autonomy, a lot of choice in terms of how my days looked and also where I wanted to live in the country and those things. And so I decided that I would just give it a go and I would see straight out of college how to be a freelance writer and it went really well, and I came down to Portland, Oregon drove down here, started building a life here and business here and did that for about eight years.

And at that point I felt like I had done a lot of the things. I had this big goal list, I checked a lot of those boxes off and I kind of didn’t know what was next and so that began a process of asking what was next and what I realized eventually after a lot of soul searching was that I was kind of already doing the thing that I loved, which was mentoring other business owners. And I just didn’t know that it was like a legitimate career path until I started to dig in a little bit deeper and once I realized that I realized I had a whole second chapter I could move into, where I still get to use a lot of my writing skills to be quite honest, but now I get to coach and mentor other business owners who want to build that better than big business, that business that serves their life.

Rob:   So tell us more about that. What does your business look like and what kinds of coaching do you do? What are the problems that you help people solve?

Ashley:   Yeah, generally for me… so I’ll start with my business. So my business is a really simple kind of solopreneur with a little bit of extra team support type business where I’m a service based business owner, just like your audience. And I’m really looking to run a business in about 25 hours a week to do really, really fulfilling work, to have a lot of choice and freedom and autonomy, and that’s what my clients are coming to me with. The problem for them is generally that they’ve reached a certain level of success in their business, but things feel pretty chaotic behind the scenes and they recognize that there are opportunities to scale, but they know they can’t scale on the way that they’ve been doing before because it’s just not sustainable and it’s not in service of their life.

So when I’m working with my clients I’m really looking at how to intentionally design the business for the kind of life that they want. We’re looking at how to get really great systems and support teams in place to allow them to free up their time, to do either more creative projects, more client work, or just to work less and then we’re also looking at the marketing piece and how to do less better there.

Kira:   You mentioned the better than big business. Can you talk more about that terminology and what you mean by it and how you start to break that down along with your process for working with clients, how that all feeds together?

Ashley:   Yeah, absolutely. So it’s so interesting as so many things in our businesses this really came straight from my client’s mouth. I was on a series of calls and so my clients kept coming to me and saying I don’t want the million dollar business, I don’t want the agency model, I don’t want the massive team, I don’t want to be the manager of that. They’re like I just want a really simple streamlined business that serves my life and that’s where that idea of this better than big business came up. And so I started talking with my clients about it and realizing that the way that we were building their business was different than this massive pursuit of fast growth. It was about really pursuing growth that matched their definition of success and about going after it in a really sustainable way. So it wasn’t about overwhelm, it wasn’t about hustle, it wasn’t about burnout, it was really about pursuing again their goals, their definition of success and in a way that really served their life.

Rob:   So can we talk a little bit more about what that looks like because I think it’s really easy to envision a business that’s continually growing, it’s bringing in more revenue, maybe you’re bringing on a couple of employees a year. But what is a business that is better, but not necessarily getting bigger look like, does it mean more money? Can it mean more money? Is it staying the same?

Ashley:   It absolutely can mean more money. It doesn’t have to be anti-growth, but it is about pursuing that growth and again in a really sustainable way. So instead of just chasing after the next level or pursuing another revenue stream, it’s always about questioning and making sure that it’s in alignment and then creating the systems and the support and the infrastructure to grow in that way, so you can do it in a way where you’re not burning out.

Kira:   Can we talk about how that breaks down for you. Let’s say if we’re working together and I’m the client and I’m trying to figure out, I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m feeling burnout, but I’m not quite sure how to fix it. What does your process look like and what are some of those questions you’re asking to move them forward and give them a clear idea of what they could build?

Ashley:   Yeah. So honestly, the process so often starts with the services because as you guys both know your services impacts so many things from your revenue to your schedule, to the systems and tools that you need to the support you need in your business, so I really like to start almost all of my clients with looking at their services and figuring out what’s not working. So for a lot of my clients that generally is that they’re trading time for dollars, or they’re doing custom proposals for each people and none of those things feel very sustainable for their business. So from there we can look at the business model and we can break down what would be a really… what would be a shift in their services that would allow them to grow in a more sustainable way.

So for some people that’s moving from the time for dollars approach to more of a product high service. And for some people they’re moving from a done for you to a done with you model, like copy coaching. There’s a couple of things that a couple of my clients have pursued that and done it really successfully. Or it might be that they’re doing, you know, they want to pursue something like intensives, like a weekend website copy coaching intensive model and that allows them to grow in a much more time managed way.

Rob:   And as you’re having these discussions with your clients, are they the ones coming to you saying hey, this is what I’d like to do, or do they come and say I’m stuck, I don’t know how to grow and you’re working with them to kind of suss out these ideas?

Ashley:   Yeah, definitely the latter. So they recognize that they’ve reached a ceiling and some of my clients have just achieved a really fast growth and it’s like they’ve kind of turned the faucet off a little bit to figure out how they want to grow from that point forward. And so from there, we’re looking at the options and I like to ask them what are the working hours that they want? What’s their enough number? What do they envision for their team? Do they want the big team agency model, or do more likely for my clients do they want a couple of really great support people in place and they’re delivering most of the client work.

We talk through all those moving pieces and what’s so fascinating for me about my clients is that none of them build their business in exactly the same way because again it’s about figuring out what’s right for them. So for some people that’s 25 hours working a week and serving a really select number of high end clients, other people want to do more teaching and they want to serve a lot of clients, but do it within courses or some sort of teaching model.

Rob:   Okay. So that makes sense. So you mentioned packages then and that’s one of the first places to start, what else? If you’ve got a few packages that you’ve settled on, what are the other parts of the business, the levers that you need to pull in order to create a better business?

Ashley:   So after those packages are in place and we figured out the business model, I always like to look at ways to free up my client’s time. So I will have them do both a systems audit to see what systems they have and what systems they need in their business and then I also like to have them create a delegation plan and that’s something that we do together. The way that we do it is we’re looking for how can we really strategically bring on the right support to free up their time to do the things that help them grow their business. So I have them write down every single thing they do right now to grow and run their business and there we start looking at what are the revenue generating activities that only they can do and that they should be doing.

And then we’re able to see that maybe they could really leverage their time better and scale their business by outsourcing part of their process, or maybe it’s that they need someone running the admin and doing project management and that would allow them to take on a few more clients or scale on a different way. So we look at those things and then we also look at the marketing and what they’re doing because I find that most people are doing a ton more than they need to and if they just focused on doing a few things really well they could grow in a really sustainable way.

Rob:   Okay. So my delegation plan is to give it to Kira I think. I don’t want to do it, just goes to Kira’s desk.

Kira:   Then it’s not going to get done. Plan is not going to work Rob. So I love all these audits that you’re working through and I think we could dig into some of those, but definitely the marketing audit catches my attention. Can you talk a little bit more about what you typically see? I know you’re working with different types of service providers, some are even copywriters, but in general or for the copywriters you’ve worked with, what do you find that they’re spending a lot of time on and isn’t really providing any type of return and then how do you course correct and what do you recommend?

Ashley:   So I find that when people come to me they’re usually trying to be everywhere and do everything, and they are certainly creating a little bit of success that way, but they’re not doing any of it very well and I’m always looking for ways that we can create more depth for them. So if somebody comes to me on their social media platforms I’m asking how can we focus on one or two and show up there in a really big way, if somebody is coming to me and they’re saying to market my business I do webinars and workshops and podcast interviews, and I’ve got my newsletter and they’ve got all these different things, but they’re not very consistent with any of those things, I’m asking them how can we scale back and focus on again just a few things really well once we get that working really well and also they have some support in place from a team member to help them do those things, then we can go back and layer on additional stuff.

Rob:   And are there channels that you typically see are better than others? We’ve actually talked just recently on a podcast about social media and the importance, the ability for that to deliver leads and attention, but as you work with more copywriters do you look and say well, 90% of them should be on this platform and not on that platform.

Ashley:   I think it’s so individualized Rob, it really depends on the person and their strengths and where their audience is hanging out. So those are the things that I like to look at with people first, but I do find that when you’re looking at your strengths, especially like that’s a really good place to start. So obviously copywriters can write and in my own business I’ve got the writing skill locked in and so for me the most successful marketing activities I’ve done in the last couple of months have been email newsletter takeovers for other people because it taps into a skillset that I already have, and those people can read about my work and read the newsletter that I write for that guest newsletter.

And then they can come over and join my list and start being part of my community and engaging in booking calls. So I think that’s a really great one for someone with a writing skill, but if you’re a copywriter who loves to teach then it might be that you really think about doing guest classes for mastermind groups or membership communities. If you’re someone who loves podcasting like I do then going and doing guest podcasting totally makes sense and can be a really great asset for your business.

Kira:   So what about for someone listening who wants to build their better than big business and can’t work with someone like you right now, or isn’t in some type of program that’s helping them figure these pieces out, they’re doing it on their own. What are a couple pieces of advice you would give them as far as like what they could tackle first, or think about first to get the most return and to feel the momentum especially if they can’t necessarily work with someone on a systems audit and multiple audits, or have that direct feedback from a coach.

Ashley:   I think that there’s so much value for people in getting clarity on what they want. A lot of times my clients will come to me and they’ll be in this point of tension where they’ve heard about all the ways that they should grow, or all the things that they should do in their business and that’s actually creating a lot of their overwhelmed because they just can’t figure out how they want to grow and what they want their business to look like. So I would say for any of your listeners who are feeling that right now, the very… the most important thing they could do is get clarity about what they really want their business to look like before they start receiving outside input.

So I would think through like what’s your enough number? What’s the number in terms of revenue and client serve that’s going to make you feel really good in your business. And when you envision having support in your business what does that look like? Does it look like a large team or does it look like a really great kind of sidekick person who’s your project manager and really helping you with things when it looks… when you look like your marketing, what would you love to do for your marketing? And then you get to design the business around those things and what you really want before you start getting all those outside inputs.

Rob:   So let’s assume that a client that you’re working with hits their enough number, what does that conversation look like because I imagine that maybe close to a hundred percent of the time once you hit your enough number, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough whether it’s… it may be enough money, but maybe it’s not enough accomplishment or maybe there’s something else that’s missing. What does that conversation look like?

Ashley:   You hit the nail on the head Rob. It’s usually for my clients they’re not so money driven, they’re much more impact driven. They’re like I know that I could serve more people, I know that I want to get my workout to a bigger audience and so that’s really the conversation for them certainly as they scale the revenue comes within, that’s an added benefit but that’s definitely their focus. So when they get to the place where they’ve hit their enough number, for example I’m working with a bookkeeper right now and she very quickly hit her enough number for her business and so now we’re talking about she has more choice, right? She can say I think I want to do this thing and it’s going to involve her next service will involve teaching. So she can serve a lot more people, it’s certainly going to allow her to bring in more revenue, but we’re looking at how she wants to do that in a different way than we were before when she was trying to reach that enough number.

Kira:   Let’s talk about hiring and growing a team when that makes sense for your clients and they do want to grow, they want to have more impact that they know they need to have this team to support them. How do you guide them through that process especially the first few hires. Who should they hire? I know this does depend on each situation, but in general what should they be thinking about as they scale and grow?

Ashley:   So I think that first conversation with people especially who are kind of trending towards the solopreneur type, like I certainly have been in my business as in the past is really getting them onboard with getting support in the first place. I think a lot of people are very committed to this is just my business and I don’t have the revenue or the ability to hand off things, or I can’t trust someone enough to hand things off. So that’s usually the first conversation is a little bit more about the mindset of passing things off and bringing on support and what the benefit is for them. So we really identify that first and then again it’s really looking at their business and figuring out where are… where’s the bottlenecks and where’s the gaps that they’re seeing, where they know it’s slowing them down and preventing them from running the business in the way they want.

So like for me for example, I’m not big on tech. I could create content all day long and I could coach all day long, but if I was in charge of getting all of my stuff out into the internet it would just would not happen in a timely way. So for me, for my team, that’s where they assist a lot, is me turning in content and them leveraging it all over the place. And for other ones of my clients they’ve recognized that while they could do say the research phase of their project, I have a copywriter who does welcome sequences that I work with and there’s a lot of research that goes into that and data grabbing, and so she has somebody on her team now who does that for her which allows her to come in and lead the strategy and create the copy in a really beautiful way. And before that, she was trying to do everything and feeling really, really drained and she didn’t have the capacity to serve more clients. So by identifying that gap for her and bringing on the right role we’ve drastically changed her capacity.

Rob:   So we definitely talk with a lot of people about how they’ve grown their teams, working with VAs, working with contractors, other writers, that kind of a thing. But what about people who come to you and they really don’t want a team? Maybe they’re okay with working with a VA for a few hours, but they really do not want the responsibility of working with anybody else, but they still want to grow a business, they still want to have some kind of scale, what options are there for people who really do want to do the solo thing?

Ashley:   So I think one option you mentioned is just having some contractors that they can call on when needed, maybe they don’t love doing design so they just need to have a contractor that they can say hey, I need a PDF done and then it’s a very short time gig, so that’s one option. The other thing I really like to look at is systems, which I know are not really sexy, but they really do help you grow because they allow you to run your business more efficiently and smoothly, and so if someone’s telling me I really have a lot of resistance around managing anyone having a team. It’s certainly want to talk to them a little bit more about that, but then I would also look at the systems and my guess is they would probably have quite a few areas. There would be like half dozen areas in their business where we could create some systems that would allow them to do things so much faster.

Kira:   I would love to talk about overwhelm because even just this past week I feel like overwhelm exhaustion, it’s all really high right now as we’re all working from home and kind of grappling with this new working situation. A lot of what we’ve talked about is about the long term growth and building the foundation and the systems that will help, but what do you suggest to the copywriter whose listening and now has half the working hours they used to have to work and also has the additional stress and anxiety of having people at home and just dealing with all the things and the noise. How do you think through daily practices and scheduling kind of more at a micro level to get through the week and to stay sane, keep your energy high and also get some productive work done too.

Ashley:   I mean, how long do you have? This is such a relevant conversation right now and I’m right there, I’m nodding my head and yes, yes, yes, I’ve got two young girls at home homeschooling and like so many other people trying to run the business and figure things out. So I would say big picture of you one thing that I’m really doing in my business and helping my clients figure out right now is look at what they’ve got on their plate in terms of client work and creative projects and marketing and all those things, and we’re asking a couple of really specific questions. We’re asking what do you need, or want to prioritize right now? Like what’s a non-negotiable for you that has to happen no matter what. So for me like that’s that my clients get served and that my content gets written. Some of the other creative projects that I had and was planning to pursue, all my girls were in school this spring are changing a little bit, the timelines shifting a little bit.

So that’s the first thing is like really asking what do you want to prioritize? Second thing I think it’s really useful to look at is what could you pause on? I had a conversation with my team at the start of the coronavirus and said, what are some of the things that we’re doing that maybe aren’t essential right now? And we decided to pause a couple of the things that we were doing, or again change the timeline a little bit. I have a creative project I’m working on and it was going to be done by spring and I’m like it’s probably going to be more like summer and I’m okay with that because again it’s about choice. And then finally it’s about asking what can you pass off? And if you don’t have a team in your business it can still be like what can you pass off to the support people you have in your life too, to free up your time for the things you want to focus on in your business.

Rob:   Can you share a few tools that help you do that? I find that I start out the quarter, or the week, or the month, or whatever, really dedicated to getting a project done, or managing my time better but then things just spiral out of control and part… I mean, I’m sure it’s my fault not managing it all well, but it strikes me that time management is something that for most people just doesn’t work. So how do you do it?

Ashley:   I think it’s about finding a way that to make it work your style, right? So like for some people that’s actually having a really set schedule where they’ve mapped almost everything out. I have other clients who would just completely balk at that and try and avoid work completely. So for them it’s more about identifying a couple of activities that they are like tasks that they need to do that day or focus areas and giving them the permission to fit those pieces in when they want to. So that might look like working on three focus areas a day, but letting them know that they can do that in the morning, they can do that late at night, they can break it up into little chunks throughout the day. So I do think it is really about, and you guys are probably hearing this again and again and my response is it really is about figuring out what works for you and then creating some sort of system around that, whether it’s looking at kind of the beaming the days or whether it’s having a really set schedule that has everything mapped out because that’s what actually creates structure and freedom for you.

Kira:   I need everything mapped out otherwise it becomes a mess. So I want to hear more about your team because you mentioned your team a couple of times and so I’d love to just kind of get a better idea of what your business structure looks like today and what your team looks like and where you’re spending most of your time to right now because it sounds like content is something that you’ll spend time on and maybe pass off some of the tech work. Where else are you spending your time?

Ashley:   So for me when I started bringing on a team I had a lot of resistance. I thought I could just keep doing this myself, but I was recognizing that there was some things that weren’t getting done because I couldn’t figure out how to do them and also I recognized that I could do more of the things that I love, again the content and the client service if I brought on a team. So in my team, I mean I have one fantastic online business manager who works in my business and does a lot of she’s in charge of client onboarding, she’s in charge of kind of a lot of the admin side of stuff and then also taking the content that I’m creating and sharing it with my newsletter list, with the social media platforms I’m on, with LinkedIn, those types of places.

And then she also has a team under her that she manages that I interact with as well. So there’s a VA, there’s a designer there who can create PDFs, or can create social graphics for me and that’s really as simple as it… it’s very, very simple. That’s all that I have on my staff right now and then I bring on occasional people as needed, if I want a website redesign I’m going to bring on a website designer. If I decide to launch a podcast then it would be bringing on someone to help with that. So it’s again really simple and small team and I found that’s exactly what I need to allow me the time freedom to be working with my clients and creating content.

Rob:   You mentioned that one of the first things you look for in your clients’ businesses is their packages, the services that they offer. Tell us about how you’ve structured packages in your own business?

Ashley:   So it’s definitely been an evolving process. So when I first started my coaching practice, I did what I think a lot of other people do. I looked at what all the other coaches were doing and I said that looks good to me, I’ll just do that. And what I learned was that wasn’t… it was maybe close to how I could design mine, but it wasn’t totally in line with what I wanted to do. And so because I value freedom and flexibility in my schedule so much, I’ve added a couple of other ways of working with people. So I do have a signature service where I take people through my framework where it’s a really like a deep dive where we do the full overhaul of the business and you get big results and we look at your business model and we look at your systems and we look at your growth strategies and your team.

And that’s a six month coaching partnership where we meet twice a month and again, really deep dive kind of classic coaching, really great support. And then I have two other ways that I work with people because as I started to realize how I wanted to scale my business it wasn’t with more one on one clients, I didn’t… I just didn’t want to see my calendar filled up with tons of calls. I didn’t feel like I could support 25 business owners a month in a really deep way like that, so I started offering coaching intensives and I do them on two topics. I do them on your marketing and then I do them on streamlining your services. So that looks like a two hour deep dive coaching intensive where we get your services in place, or we get your simplified marketing plan in place and then I hang out for two weeks as people start to implement and questions come up.

And then the final way that I work with people is through a service called on-demand coaching partnership where it’s completely say virtual, but it’s basically a coach in your back pocket. We’re using the Voxer messaging app and the coaching all takes place that way. So it’s really great for overwhelmed business owners who are like I literally don’t have time to do coaching calls, but I want someone that I can call on at any time to ask questions, to seek support, to get some mentorship, to get some perspective and brainstorm ideas. So those are my three ways that I work with people, it’s different, they’re all different, but they’re all serving the same result of helping people build their better than big business.

Kira:   For writers who are interested in getting into coaching, maybe following a similar path, what advice would you give them? What should they be thinking about? What is… what are some next steps they could take to move in that direction and test it out as a business model before jumping fully in?

Ashley:   I love this question because I recently helped a client do just this, moving from that done for you to done with you, copy coaching and I think first I would say that there’s a massive opportunity here because I find that for my clients especially when serving newer entrepreneurs in the early years of my business. That there is a very… a large group of people who really struggle with writing and also want to learn how. So I would say there’s opportunity there and it’s about figuring out what’s the best way for you to do it. So my client initially decided that, you know, she has a background as a teacher and so for her it made a lot of sense to create a group program where she was teaching and offering support and reviewing different pieces of copy for the students in the group.

Other people I know love to do that in a long term kind of coaching partnership, or you could certainly do it in more of an intensive style model too, where they’re writing and you’re coaching them through it. So I think there’s a lot of opportunities there. I would really encourage people to think about what they don’t like about the way that they’re working with people right now and why they want to move into copy coaching, and then make sure that the services that they’re setting up meet that criteria.

Rob:   What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see as you’ve worked, particularly with copywriters that they’re making in their business? I know we’ve talked about some things like not having systems in place, not having packages, but are there other things that we’re doing kind of across the board that are holding us back?

Ashley:   I’d be so curious on you guys’ take on this, but what I see the most from my perspective is that they’re trying to be too many things, at least a couple people that I’ve worked with in the copy space. They’re basically saying I can help you with anything and everything with your copy and that’s leaving them really burnt out and also they’re not just getting the opportunities that they really want. So the last couple of copywriters that I’ve worked with, one of the first things that we’ve asked is what’s the kind of copy that gets you so excited? For one of them it was sales and launch copy, for the other it was I love writing welcome sequences, that is my sweetest spot and I want to do that all day long. So we started designing a business for each of their specialties and it was incredible to see what happened.

One of them, her business just took off. She booked 47K in business over the next five months once she decided to focus on specifically the welcome sequences and then the other girl switched to the launch copy and she was able to start generating some revenue, some really great clients, but she also started becoming known as an expert, which allowed her to charge higher rates. It allowed her to book lots of podcast interviews and guest expert spots and bring in again, more clients that were aligned with what she wanted to do. So I think that’s a really big thing to think about if you are more of a generalist copywriter and you feel like it’s not working so great for you, I would think about what do you really love to do? What’s your unique specialty in the copy space and find ways to own that.

Kira:   What’s helped you up level the most in your business? You’re doing a lot of things well, you’ve got a team. We look back on the past few years, what is that one investment or activity that has paid off the most?

Ashley:   I think for me it’s always having a space to go to get perspective whether it’s, you know, I have… my team can certainly brainstorm ideas with me, they’re fabulous for that. But being part of a peer mastermind group, or part of a paid mastermind group, or working with a coach, somewhere that you can go and start to share your ideas and your frustrations and challenges and then gets respective, that investment for me has been worth it every single time.

Rob:   We’re big on those kinds of things as well and I mean obviously we offer some, but for people who don’t join our programs we’re really big on saying find something, find some way to engage with others to grow your business because there’s really nothing better than having a coach and peers who can help push you along.

Ashley:   Yeah. And they give you a mirror too. Sometimes we know the answer and this is what I actually love about my Voxer coaching partnership is sometimes people just need to talk something out and sometimes my clients will leave a five minute message and by the end of the message they’re like oh I have my answer, I’ve already figured it out, Ignore everything I just said. They literally just need a space to talk it out.

Rob:   So we probably should have asked this at the very beginning of the interview when you were talking about your journalistic background, but you’ve been published in some pretty big name publications and in another lot of writers, copywriters who would love that kind of exposure. Will you talk just a little bit about what it took to get published in places like Oprah’s magazine?

Ashley:   Yeah, a whole lot of tenacity I would say. I think it’s my experience working as a journalist taught me so much about the importance of relationship building and also the importance of follow-up, which I think serves any service-based business owners. So really the relationship building piece, like the way that I was able to get published in places like Oprah magazine or I was a food writer, so if anyone’s familiar with like Bon Appétit or Saveur, was building really strong relationships with the editors and then pitching them stories that made sense for their type of publication and then following up because editors are so busy that they literally will read something and forget it the next hour. So that’s like lessons learned that I brought into this business, which is build relationships in this business and then also when I’m working with clients or doing sales calls, follow up is so important. I think that’s something anyone can carry into their service based business too.

Kira:   Maybe we can go deeper into that too with a real example of even just you’ve pitched podcast, you pitched our podcast, you’ve done it right and well, can you talk about how you approach it just so we can kind of get under the hood and see what’s really happening and how to do it well all the way from like maybe even the initial engagement. I know we met on Instagram, to the follow-up and what it really takes to land a podcast and be a guest expert on a podcast when you don’t know the host.

Ashley:   That’s such a good question. So I think for me it’s about taking your time. I think a lot of people decide like I’m going to… they decide they want to go on a podcast and they just pitch the host without doing any research, without doing any relationship building, without really finding anything out about their audience. And my take is you’re going to have a much better chance of success with that pitch if you do that and it’s probably only going to take you a couple of hours. So I’ll just run you through my process for podcast pitching, I really… first, I listen to some podcast episodes. I want to make sure that it’s a good fit for me, that I really like the show, that I know about the audience, that it just makes sense before I take the time to develop a pitch.

So for me that usually looks like downloading three, four or five of the episodes and listening to them while I’m out driving or running, or walking and just getting a feel for them. And then from there it’s about looking at the things that I like to talk about and seeing if they’ve already covered it or seeing if there’s a way that we could cover in a slightly different way and if it, you know, the things I want to talk about and the value that I can add make sense for this space. And then from there it’s developing a pitch and sending it. Now Kira with you, when I was researching your podcast I came across your Instagram profile and was having so much fun reading it that we started to engage there. It’s not always something that I do, but it was like a nice I think bonus that we had that connection before pitching your podcast. So that could certainly be something that people add in is building our relationship with the host before pitching as well.

Kira:   Yeah. I think that definitely strengthens it and we do get a good amount of podcast pitches now especially right now and yours stood out not only because it was well written, but also because I did just recognize you from Instagram and we’d already engaged, so even beyond you as a guest and how great you’d be as a guest and the pitch, it was kind of like this just sense of obligation to respond because we’d already opened a conversation. So I do think it’s a really great way to just engage in other channels and to start that conversation so that person is familiar whenever you do see them in your inbox, at least that’s how I would approach it when pitching too.

Ashley:   And I think people will say well, that sounds really time consuming, but as you heard I fold a lot of that into my daily life, I’m going to go for a run anyway so why not use that time to listen to a really great podcast and check it out and see if it would be a good fit for a pitch.

Kira:   Right, exactly.

Rob:   So this might not be a fair question, but can we dissect the pitch just a little bit and-

Kira:   Let’s pull it up…

Rob:   Let’s look and talk about why it worked and why it was so good.

Ashley:   And here’s the other thing I will say, with you guys I had added insight because I had a client who attended your event in when was that? April.

Rob:   Middle of March actually.

Ashley:   Middle of March. Okay. So she attended the event and she came home and told me all about it and how great you guys were and how the community was fabulous and I had to listen to this podcast. So I feel like I had a little bit even more insight than I normally do and then I was able to listen to the podcast and really learn a lot about your audience because you guys do such a great job of sharing. So that was where I started from.

Kira:   Okay, cool. And then when you’re thinking through the actual pitch, how do you structure it? What works well for your pitch as far as like the points that you hit on. I loved your subject lines, so your subject line was fake plants and a pitch for the copywriter club podcast. And fake plants caught my attention because I had just written about how I love to buy fake plants. So it was very attention grabbing, but it was also direct like, and this is a pitch for the copywriter club podcast. I think you nailed the subject line.

Ashley:   Thank you. I loved your post about the fake plans, it just made me smile from ear to ear and it was so permission giving, so I was like I have to call it out. So generally when I’m pitching for any sort of collaboration I’ll kind of take one of two approaches. One is a very specific topic based pitch and another one is more along the lines of here’s what I do, here is the things that might… we could talk on that might be a value to your community. It’s just a gut feeling for me about what makes the most sense to pitch. I think for you guys, it was very specific, I knew I wanted to come and talk with you guys about streamlining your business and streamlining your services and I knew we were going to talk about other things too, but that was what I made the focus of the pitch because that was something my client had told me. It came up in conversation with her so many times with peers at that event, so I also knew that it was something that your community was talking about.

Kira:   Yes. Okay, great.

Rob:   So I’m curious then as we think about all the things that we’ve been talking about, how to structure that business that’s better not bigger. What do you say to clients who come to you and say well, actually I want to be bigger.

Ashley:   I think that’s great. The question that I would ask them is how do they want to get there? Do they want to get there with again, the hustle, the burn out, the overwhelm? Or do they want to figure out how they want to grow bigger in a sustainable way. If that’s what they want then I’m totally their person. If they want it like overnight success, then I would generally send them elsewhere.

Rob:   Cool. Yeah. So there’s obviously lots of options as far as growing goes?

Ashley:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kira:   What else does your marketing engine look like? And what does it actually look like beyond pitching podcast host, which you’ve done well and that’s definitely a part of your marketing engine and then again, just like showing up on Instagram, I don’t know how often you show up, but it was enough to engage at least with me. What else are you focused on, on the marketing side of your business?

Ashley:   So I really love what a lot of people will call the hub and spoke approach where I create one signature piece of content, or encore piece of content each week and then I highlight some sections of it for my team and then they post it elsewhere. So generally that looks like it’d be writing two newsletters for my list each week and my team schedules them and sends them out and then they’ll pull from those to post in my Facebook group and pull to post on Instagram. And those are really the only two platforms that I’m very consistent with. I’m also exploring LinkedIn a little bit because now that those two platforms are consistent, myself and the team have the bandwidth to add one thing additional now, so that’s really the core focus.

And then on top of that I’ll back up even, so that’s what I look at in terms of like how do I want to nurture and serve and add value to my own audience? And that’s where my focus is. When it comes to getting in front of other people’s audiences, I am like collaborations all the way. So that can be podcast guest interviews, that can be those email newsletter takeovers I was talking about. I’ll do guest workshops for people’s mastermind groups, I think that’s such a really lovely way to get in front of new audiences.

Rob:   Okay. So I want to talk just a little bit more if we can about the whole idea of working less and growing. Obviously everything that we’ve covered is sort of focused at helping to do that and to pull people into the best work that they do, pushing off some of the things that may not be right for them to do, that the team can handle that kind of thing. Are there any other levers that we should be looking at or pulling to be able to grow while we maybe step back from the actual day to day work?

Ashley:   I think for, you know, we talked a little bit about this, but moving a little bit more for some people, moving from that done with you to more of a consultant or coaching role when you have that expertise and you’re not using it and you’re not doing the strategy, I’ve seen a lot of my clients move successfully in that direction and that’s one of the things that really allows them to scale and work less. So again, like it might be that they start being able to serve groups because they are now doing more of a coaching or teaching role, or it might be more that they’re doing longterm kind of more high end packages with people than the done for you one-on-one work and that definitely gets them to a place where they can work more like 20, 25 hours a week.

I think in addition to all the things that I’ve changed in my business, moving from freelance writer where I was working, I can’t even imagine how many hours now, probably like 40 to 50 a week with a lot of the kind of done for you work to what I’m doing now and more coaching consulting and working 20 to 25 hours a week with great systems and support teams doing that, like it’s night and day.

Kira:   And the point where you’re at in your business, which does sound great, right? It’s like a little it’s less done for you, it’s more coaching, sounds like you have your schedule in place, you’ve got a team, it sounds dreamy probably to a lot of listeners. So what are you struggling with at this point in your business? What’s hard at this level that you’re working through now so that you can continue to keep it simple and continue to build the business that you want.

Ashley:   I think it’s the capacity, right? Like when you reach that point in your business when you recognize I am very committed to only working with those eight, like one-on-one clients, I’m experimenting with nine to see how that goes, but it is always going to be for me as a service provider who’s doing the things, or coaching my clients. There’s always going to be a little bit of a capacity problem unless I decide to move into more of a like membership or group model, which has never really felt like the right thing for me, personally I think it works great, this is not the right thing for me personally. So that’s one of my biggest challenges.

The other one is that I have ideas for creative projects that there’s not as much space for them as I would, I know I could work 40 or 50 hours a week and make tons of space for those projects, but instead I’ve chosen to lengthen the timeline forum so I can still do them, it just takes me a little bit longer, but that also allows me to have time with my kids to get out for those runs, to go to yoga class when the studios are open. And that’s just a choice that I’m making, but it does… there’s definitely a little tension there because there’s always a little bit of conflict.

Rob:   I guess the question is what’s next for you? How do you grow your business into the next thing?

Ashley:   What I’m experimenting right now is that on demand coaching partnership, because it is so flexible and it doesn’t rely on me to be anywhere in a specific time, so it’s actually been a really good way to scale. So I’ve been able to add 10 one-on-one clients that way in the last couple of months really, and serve a lot more people, certainly in a different way and with different depth than I have before, but my goal is to serve more people and help more people build their better than big business, that’s been a beautiful way for me. Capacity there is a question mark and that’s what’s kind of a fun thing to experiment with and I’ll know when I hit it.

Kira:   We’ve asked before, maybe you’ve heard us ask this on a podcast, but what is the future of copywriting look like to you?

Ashley:   I think just seeing what I see from my clients who are all different types of service based businesses, I think there is a really big need for teaching because people who know how to write, they don’t feel that same shame or challenges, they are people who just don’t feel like they’re good writers and for a lot of my clients, the moment that we help them like… because I do a lot of copy coaching with them, the moment they move through that piece and start feeling confidence, their business really it transforms. So I think there’s certainly plenty of space for the done for you and that there is always going to be a demand for that, but I also think with how much content we’re tasked with creating as business owners right now, I do think there’s going to be a much more of a need for teaching and coaching.

Rob:   And you’ve got me thinking about all kinds of things that I should be doing differently in my business now Ashley, and I’m guessing there are a lot of other people listening that are sort of thinking the same way. So if they wanted to reach out to you to learn more about you and the things that you offer, where should they go?

Ashley:   A great place to start is my website. It’s and there’s a resource page there that’s got tons of resources, and if you like blog posts you’ve got blog posts to read, if you’ve got… if you like to listen to podcasts there’s a lot of podcast interviews up there. So you can really kind of take the resources and learn in the way that you want to learn.

Kira:   All right. Well, thank you so much Ashley for joining us today and really allowing us to kind of dissect your business and what you’ve been working on with service providers. It’s been really helpful, so thanks.

Ashley:   I absolutely thank you for all the great questions.

Rob:   Thanks Ashley. You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available at iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit We’ll see you next episode.

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